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U.S.-Canada Pacific Salmon Treaty Would Reduce Alaska, British Columbia Harvests When Forecasts Low
Posted on Friday, September 28, 2018 (PST)

A 10-year U.S.-Canada treaty that will govern harvest of salmon in Alaska and British Columbia is set to be ratified by the two nations, the states of Washington and Oregon, British Columbia and Northwest and Columbia River treaty tribes.


The Pacific Salmon Commission made up of representatives from all the governments recently completed an update to the current treaty that will end Dec. 31, 2018. The new Pacific Salmon Treaty will extend the treaty out to 2028.


One of the most significant aspects of the new agreement is management of chinook salmon listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in Puget Sound and the Columbia River basin. Many of these stocks migrate north to British Columbia and Alaska where they are harvested in commercial fisheries.


“I’m pleased the Commission was able to bring forward this recommendation, and that the Parties were able to reach an agreement that we feel will support the conservation and long-term sustainability of this important resource” said Rebecca Reid, Canadian Vice-Chair of the Commission and Regional Director General, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Pacific Region.


Under the new agreement, catches of chinook salmon in southeast Alaska will be reduced up to 7.5 percent from 2009 levels in years when poor returns of the fish are expected. Likewise, British Columbia has also agreed to reduce harvest under the same conditions – up to 12.5 reduction percent from 2009-2015 levels.


Other changes recommended by the Commission are new conservation objectives for several of the salmon populations, as well as a renewed commitment to science and stock assessments to inform decision-makers in both countries, the Commission said.


The agreement also applies to other salmon stocks and to other west coast fisheries to ensure that harvests remain strongly tied to conservation objectives. Oregon said that the result will be an increased abundance of chinook returning to Oregon waters.


“I praise the efforts of the joint US/Canada Pacific Salmon Commission for approving strong recommendations to the Pacific Salmon Treaty,” said Oregon Gov. Kate Brown. “Successful updates to the Pacific Salmon Treaty through 2028 will help ensure long-term sustainable and healthy salmon populations that are vital to the people of the Pacific Northwest, and to the entire ecosystem.”


The first such treaty was ratified in 1985 as the two countries agreed to cooperate in the management, research and enhancement of Pacific salmon stocks of mutual concern (see the Pacific Salmon Commission website at


However, the treaty became “outmoded” in 1992 when the original treaty expired and the two countries could not reach an agreement on coast-wide fisheries until 1999. That 10-year treaty expired in 2008 and a new conservation and harvest-sharing treaty was hammered out in May 2008, with the ratified treaty lasting from 2009 to the end of this year.


“A high degree of cooperation is required to prevent overfishing, provide optimum production and ensure that each country receives benefits that are equivalent to the production of salmon in its waters,” the Salmon Commission said in a news release. “With the current harvest sharing agreement set to expire on December 31, 2018, Canadian and U.S. representatives on the Commission met regularly over the course of two years for extensive negotiations leading to the new 10-year proposal.”


“We faced some very challenging issues in these negotiations,” said Phil Anderson, lead negotiator for the U.S. and former director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. “I appreciate everyone’s willingness to work together to come up with a plan that will create a better future for salmon in Washington.”


The proposed agreement will manage harvests of highly-migratory salmon stocks from Cape Falcon, Oregon in the south to Southeast Alaska in the north, including pink, coho, sockeye, chum and chinook salmon.


“It was gratifying to know throughout the negotiations that conservation of coastwide salmon stocks was the highest priority of every commissioner,” said NOAA Fisheries’ Bob Turner, U.S. Commissioner and current Chair of the Commission.


“This step comes at a crucial time as we continue to see declines in chinook salmon populations around Puget Sound,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said. “As we work with our international partners to send more fish into our waters, it becomes even more crucial that state leaders do what’s necessary to protect and restore habitat and address the dire needs of these fish.”


U.S. members of the Salmon Commission will also begin work to finalize new federal funding agreements over the next month. The funding is needed to support Puget Sound habitat improvements and protection, and to implement hatchery conservation programs.


“The funding will also be critical to commitments to science and stock assessment needed to successfully manage these complex interjurisdictional fisheries,” an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife news release says.


“Additional federal funding is essential in order to make the key conservation work possible to recover salmon, and in turn, our orcas,” Inslee said.


Funding requests will include money and programs to support recovery efforts for endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales. Orcas in Puget Sound rely on chinook as a primary food source and have struggled because of the decline of the fish.


U.S. commissioners anticipate a funding request that is equal to or more than the 2009 one-time request of $50 million.


The governments of Canada and the United States must approve the recommendations of the Pacific Salmon Commission before implementation can occur beginning January 1, 2019.


Also see:


--CBB, April 6, 2018, “Alaska Announces Reduced Harvest Limit For Struggling Southeast Alaska Chinook,”


--CBB, March 16, 2018, “Washington Governor Signs Executive Order To Protect Orcas, Chinook Salmon,”


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